Category Archives: Writing

The 777 Meme: 7 Lines From Page 7 of My Work in Progress

I’ve been tagged by Jennifer Brooks for the 777 Meme!

The rules:
Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.
Post the first full 7 lines.
Then tag 7 friends.

My work in progress, titled AESOP’S CURSE, is with my agent. If she thinks it’s ready, we will submit it to my editor at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. They have the right to review my next project first. Here is a basic description:

High school freshman Alexandre Hart discovers he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable teller, and he must reverse Aesop’s curse–his final words to a Delphi village–to better his karma and prevent a repeat of the deadly curse. While dealing with his karmic mission, Alex must also face a senior bully, his long-time crush, his feelings for his best friend, Daniella Falcón, and his reluctance to take risks.

A beautiful picture of Delphi

Alex has been having recurring nightmares in which a stocky, mean-looking dude has been chasing him. One night, Alex decides to stop running in his dreams and meet the man who, he thinks, might kill him in his sleep. Here are the lines when they are finally face-to-face, ready to have a conversation that will reveal Alex’s past life, his karmic mission, and that the “dream stalker” is really Kyros, his spiritual adviser.

I am not usually a rule-breaker, but I added more lines so that you get a better sense of the scene. Here it is:

 

“Are you ready to talk?” he asked in a raspy baritone.

“Sure,” I said, trying to act unruffled, hoping he didn’t notice my shaking legs. A part of me still thought I should be running for my life.

“Let’s sit,” he said. Chairs and Main Street appeared out of nowhere. We sat facing each other in the middle of the empty road. Even at this hour, I expected to hear something, like music escaping from an open window or leaves rustling from a summer breeze. Instead, the sound of my heartbeat pounded in my ears, and the streetlights overhead provided the only illumination.

For a few moments, neither of us spoke. I had rehearsed what to say a thousand times in my head, but in the moment, I went with the obvious.

“So, you’ve been chasing me.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I need to tell you something. I usually try to get through to you more subtly, but you can be a little clueless, so I decided to use a more direct approach this time.”

He was usually more subtle? Has he tried to talk to me before? And why did he call me clueless? I’m not clueless, am I?

He grinned.

Okay, that wouldn’t be fair if he could read my mind or hear my thoughts or whatever.

“So, what do you want to tell me?” I asked.

He stared at me, but stayed quiet for a moment, which only made me more nervous.

“You know, Alex, I’ve thought long and hard about how to tell you this. I’ve decided not to sugar-coat anything. I’m simply going to spit it out.”

The more he stalled, the more anxious I became. Closing my eyes, I moved my head straight back and then from side to side, trying to release the tension building in my neck. After, I watched him and waited.

“I am your life coach,” he said.

“What?”

“I am your life coach.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes. I’m kind of like your guardian angel, but different. You have a guardian angel, too. I’m not her. I’m your life coach, your spirit guide, your personal adviser.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes,” he said more forcefully. “And, this is what I mean by clueless.”

 

That’s all for now! I was supposed to tag 7 new people, but most of my author friends were on writing deadlines. I am, however, tagging Venessa Schwarz, who is a contestant in the first ever Pitch Fiesta being run by Latin@s in Kid Lit.

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged! Writers across the blogosphere have been tossing a particular Q&A around the writing community. It’s the Writing Process Blog Tour. Lila Quintero Weaver published her responses last week and tossed it over to me. First, here’s some info on my tagger.

DarkroomI haven’t met Lila in person yet, but I consider her una amiga nonetheless. We have been collaborating on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site since July 2013. Lila has been an enthusiastic blogger for the site, posting great book talks, Q&As, and personal stories. An author and illustrator, her debut novel was Darkroom: Memoirs in Black and White. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.

 

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

What am I working on?

aesop

An image of Aesop

I am revising Aesop’s Curse, my second young adult novel. During the school year, I teach middle school reading full time and college composition part time, so my goal is to finish revising Aesop’s Curse this summer so that my agent can review it and submit it to editors. The story is about a high school freshman named Alexandre Hart who learns he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable writer. Aesop cursed a village before he was executed, and now Alex has to somehow fix this or things will get ugly. (I don’t want to give too much away). I am also steadily working on plans to promote my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on February 10, 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Both of my novels have a literary element. Aesop’s Curse includes information about the author and some of his most famous fables. When Reason Breaks includes Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and the characters represent the poet and other people who existed in her life. For example, the two main characters, Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis, represent Dickinson, and the character Tommy Bowles represents two important men in Dickinson’s life: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles. While there are lots of YA books linked to famous authors and/or literary works, there are fewer about Dickinson and Aesop.

Each of my novels also has a diverse cast of characters, which is important to me personally as a Latina, mom, and teacher. I think it’s important to represent our diverse reality in children’s books, and to not consider these “minority” books, but rather books with minorities in them.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what interests me. I fell in love with Dickinson’s work during graduate school, I have first-hand experience with depression, and I have been a teacher for 13 years, which means I have known and learned from lots of interesting, complex, remarkable teens. When Reason Breaks combines these elements. When planning Aesop’s Curse, I again pulled from topics of interest. I found the story of Aesop’s execution fascinating, I have read a lot about the metaphysical and reincarnation, and I have known plenty of young men like Alex who fly under the radar and dread taking risks for fear of failure.

How does my writing process work?

My process is not methodical. I don’t use charts and graphs or color-coded note cards, and I don’t write every day, which is the #1 piece of advice given to writers. I scribble in notebooks and on post-it notes, and I think about my work in progress constantly, plotting scenes in my head. This way, when I have time to sit and write, I’m ready. I do most of my writing during child-free weekends (when my parents babysit), snow days, sick days, school vacations, and when my daughter is doing an extra curricular activity. Marathon writing sessions with days of no writing in between doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

SusanAdrianMay2013_200pxI will now toss these questions to Susan Adrian, the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015. Susan’s debut YA novel is titled Tunnel Vision and will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a brief description: A teenage boy who has a power he calls tunneling—he can decipher where anyone in the world is (and what they’re doing) by holding something they own—is brought to the attention of the U.S. government. Sounds cool, right? Susan will tell us all about her writing process next week.

My Book Is Available for Pre-Order!!

Holy wow! This is happening! I found out yesterday that my debut novel, When Reason Breaks (Bloomsbury 2/10/2015), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. The listing isn’t complete yet because the cover art and description need to be finalized, but it’s there and you can order it! Here’s the brief description:

Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado seem to have little in common except for Ms. Diaz’s English class and the solace they find in the words of Emily Dickinson, but both are struggling to cope with monumental secrets and tumultuous emotions that will lead one to attempt suicide.

Click here for the longer description. And, look, here’s a screen shot of the Amazon page:

Amazon screen shot

I know I have five sales for sure: my mom and dad bought four and my sister bought one. I’m on a roll!! LOL!

Seriously, I appreciate every single sale, and if you want to wait to borrow it from a local library, that’s cool, too. I’m a big fan and supporter of libraries.

Also, if you’re anti-Amazon because of its fight with Hachette, then you can wait until its available at other outlets.

But, if you are interested in buying my book, then pre-ordering it would be great! I’ve learned that pre-sales greatly influence promotions and a writer’s future career. I’d like a future career. Just saying.

Here is a post by author Natalie Whipple I bookmarked a while ago titled: “5 Easy Things You Can Do to Support Debut Authors.” In the section about pre-orders, she writes this:

Publishers look at pre-order sales. If they are good, on track, or behind expectations. It impacts their view of the book and their likelihood to push the title. Having good pre-orders could help your favorite debut continue their career. Besides, pre-ordering often costs less than buying at a store or after debut.

So…here’s the link: When Reason Breaks on Amazon. Check it out!

 

 

My Novel Has a Title and Description!!!

What an awesome day! My editor sent me an email with two great pieces of information: my novel has a new official title and an official description that will go into Bloomsbury’s catalog!

So, here’s the title…….

WHEN REASON BREAKS

Changing a title after working on project for so long can be nerve-wracking. This title is perfect, as it fits the story and it’s from one of Emily Dickinson’s poems that’s quoted in the book. The line is from Poem #340: “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.” Here’s the stanza with the reference:

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

Okay, so I didn’t write a light-hearted romantic comedy. Maybe next time. For now, though, this is what will be available in less than a year:

13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

Meet Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado. A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel that is equal parts literary and commercial, with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls fighting for their lives.

Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former newspaper reporter turned public school teacher. She now teaches as a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school but previously worked for the Hartford Courant and the Boston Globe.  She and her young daughter live in Connecticut. When Reason Breaks is her debut novel.

GAHHHH!! Even though I know the general process of publishing and what to expect next, whenever something happens, I’m surprised and excited. I guess that’s a good thing. For those of you who were at SCBWI in New York, I’m taking Kate Messner’s advice and celebrating every step. For those of you who weren’t there, remember to savor small victorious moments, and it never hurts to celebrate with Aretha Frnaklin, so here’s the Queen of Soul!

One Step Closer to Publication!

First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! I hope your day is filled with lots of kisses, hugs, and chocolate!

So, this past week, I received the major news from my editor that my novel is out of the revision process and in a copy editor’s hands. I received lots of congratulations (thank you!) followed by the question, “What does that mean?” The short answer is that it is one major step closer to publication. Here’s more of an explanation…

The writing process is not linear, but it tends to have steps we all go through from idea to finished product. Here they are:

writing_process

As a journalist, I lived this process daily. Get an assignment, do the research and interviews, draft the article, an editor reads it and makes corrections or offers suggestions, I revise it, it gets read again and, when ready, moves on to the copy desk, where editors take a super close look at it for errors, and then prepare it to be published in the newspaper.

The book publication process is similar, but while the newspaper business runs through these steps daily, months pass between each step when creating a book. Prewriting and drafting could take a year (seriously). In the middle of drafting, you may need to stop and return to the planning phase because something isn’t working and you have to think it through.

When you share it with others for revision suggestions, the revising and redrafting and revising and redrafting and….you get the picture…could go on for months. And in the middle of this process, you may leap back to prewriting/planning if you need to move chapters around and think through the structure and events. At one point, I stopped everything and used post-it notes on my wall to figure out how to tackle a major revision.

I’m not complaining. All of the revisions were worth it. The story I started drafting years ago is SOOOOO much better today thanks to suggestions from my family and friends, and later, my agent and editor. All of the drafting and revising has resulted in a story I’m proud of and excited to share soon with the world.

So, after looping through drafting and revising for months, to be told the manuscript has moved on to copy editing is a big deal, like jump-up-and-down-and-fist-bump-someone kind of excitement. Because this means the manuscript is out of the writing phase and into the production phase. Because if you refer to the chart (yes, I’m a teacher), the story is one pie shape closer to “Publish.” AGHHHHHH!!! Crazy, right?

It's Happening Hi Res

I’m as excited as he is to see what happens through the editing phase! Any comments or advice from people who have been through it?

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

I recently received my next round of revision notes from my editor. She said this round was more polishing than heavy revising, so I named it the “polish version” on my computer, which of course sounds like I’m writing it in Polish. Anywho, my deadline is January 6. I will not be posting anything until then since I’ll be busy revising-polishing-tweaking while celebrating Christmas and ringing in the New Year. So, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE! Enjoy this festive time of year. I’ll post an update soon after the new year. For now, I leave you with this from me, my daughter, my dad and siblings. I couldn’t resist! It cracks me up every time I watch it! Enjoy!

 

End of Year Reality Check

The last time I blogged was October and the post was about being so busy September was a blur. Now it’s December. What the?

I recently celebrated a birthday and the year is coming to an end. I’m not one to make serious resolutions, but I’ve found myself thinking about my life and making plans to slow down so I don’t feel like life is passing me by at warp speed.

One of my realizations is that I can’t keep up the pace I’ve set for myself since the time I first had a job and goals and a personal drive that once got me labeled as a “rabid overachiever.” Are there shots for that? Anyway, I still have a job and goals and the desire to achieve them, but I have to manage everything in a way that won’t leave me feeling like I’m treading water.

Don’t get me wrong, life is good–really! I have a great job, an amazing daughter, supportive family and friends, and a debut novel on the way, which is a dream come true. Still, a personal reality check recently led me to this simple conclusion: I’m not a spring chicken. I’m not old. I know that. But, I can’t keep moving at the same pace I set for myself when I was in my early 20s.

In addition to work, family, and writing, I have become involved with two websites: Latin@s in Kid Lit and the Fearless Fifteeners. I love being a part of both groups and have spent a lot of my time building the site over at Latin@s in Kid Lit with some author-friends-colleagues. I don’t want to give those up. I don’t want to give anything up, really, but I do need to scale back so I can do things well instead of simply getting things done.

Part of my plan is to scale back here. I’ll keep a more regular schedule–I’m thinking Mondays and Thursdays–but I’ll do quicker posts like you might see on Tumblr. But I can’t join that site or Pintrest or anything else. I am the camel and those are the shiny, time-consuming straws I need to avoid. I’ll also engage in some cross-pollination with the other sites I mentioned. Since I’ll be posting on those sites, I’ll either reblog posts here or announce what’s on those sites and link to them.

I want to keep this site active (which it’s not really right  now) especially in the coming year, when all sorts of exciting things will happen like cover reveals and Advanced Reader Copies!!! AHHHH!! But I also want to keep my sanity and be a great mom and teacher and have enough energy to write more books! So, shorter blog posts on a regular basis will be part of the solution. A long soak in a hot tub and regular massages couldn’t hurt either! :.)

Does anyone else struggle with balancing it all? Any tips?

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